Next year in Jerusalem…
A High Holidays message from Dr. David Breakstone, International Vice President of MERCAZ Olami,
from the Jerusalem of here and now
Last week, those of us in Israel went to sleep one night thinking that we had been abandoned by the Democratic Party, only to wake the next morning to the news that the language declaring “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” had been reinstated into its official platform. While I am gratified by the amendment, I don’t delude myself into thinking that the wording makes much difference one way or another. Since 1995, when the United States Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act stipulating that the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of May 1999, it has been ignored by Republican and Democratic presidents alike.
No, truth be told, as vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization, I am far more concerned by the gradual abandonment of Jerusalem by so many Jews in the Diaspora, particularly among the younger generation. But even older and more influential figures within the community, whose support for the Jewish state is unshakeable, have told me to “stop talking to us of the centrality of Israel in Jewish life.”
It makes me wonder what meaning they find in the last several weeks of Torah readings, which are replete with instructions as to what we are to do “when you come into the land which the Lord, your God, has given you for an inheritance.”
In one discussion I had with an important Jewish educator on the matter, I asked why continue to pray in the direction of Jerusalem, break a glass under the wedding canopy in commemoration of the destruction of the Temple, or pray for rain in keeping with the seasons here if Israel is no longer central to the Jewish experience . The answer I received: Those things are important, symbolically.
I object. I am not a symbol. I am real. And so is everything else that the Zionist movement has built over the past 115 years. For two millenia we could talk symbolism. No more.
The conversation needs to continue. Publicly. But first and foremost, privately. In this season of soul-searching, my modest request is that at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, when – with a mixture of longing and joy – you declare “Next year in Jerusalem!” that you don’t allow the words to glide glibly off your tongue. That is the very least to which the generations that came before us are entitled. Their longing, faith and devotion is what allowed us to be both a part of and a witness to the beginning of the fulfillment of the vision of Isaiah. “Raise your eyes and look about: They have all gathered and come to you. Your sons shall be brought from afar, your daughters like babes on shoulders.”
“Next year in Jerusalem!” I won’t tell you not to say it if you don’t mean it, but I do implore you not to say it without meaning.
May the new year be one of ongoing realization of the Zionist dream for us all, and of health, prosperity, fulfillment and delight for you and your loved ones and the entire House of Israel.